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Ivory Coast President Names Rebel Leader as Prime Minister


Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo Thursday signed a decree naming rebel leader Guillaume Soro prime minister. The move follows the signing of a powersharing peace plan designed to unite the country. Naomi Schwarz reports from VOA's regional bureau in Dakar.

The news that Ivorian president Gbagbo and rebel leader Soro would meet to discuss the prime minister's role, a development many are calling the beginning of the end to the political and military crisis that has divided the West African nation since 2002, has not led to much celebration.

Local journalist Baudelaire Mieu says many Ivorians remain skeptical this peace deal will mean lasting peace. He says they are waiting to see what happens.

The president and Soro were expected to discuss the details of how power would be split between them. This step comes after the two men signed an historic agreement in early March to create a transitional government to reunify the country and organize elections. The last presidential vote, originally scheduled for November 2005, has been postponed twice.

Sidi Mohamed Diawara, director of the Abidjan office of Washington, D.C.-based National Democratic Institute, says he has seen many skeptical responses to the peace accords and the announcement of Soro as prime minister.

"The people do not believe that Gbagbo will ever leave power," Diawara said. "If he understands that he might lose power, he would never leave, so another crisis might start."

Others are angry, he says, at what they see as a victory for the rebels.

But Diawara is does not see it that way.

"My analysis neither is this a victory for Gbagbo nor a victory for the rebels," he said. "They are compromising and it will lead us hopefully to the end of the crisis."

He says this will depend on Gbagbo and Soro's ability to work together and follow through on the substance of the agreements made in the peace deal.

The next step after the appointment of the prime minister is to appoint the rest of the transitional government.

Analysts anticipate it will include many members of Soro's group, the New Forces, as well as members of the president's party, the Popular Front.

They say this will mean less influence for members of other opposition groups.

Gilles Yabi, of the International Crisis Group, says the new government will include some opposition figures, but they will have less power.

"I think the real change is that now all the main decisions will be taken by Soro and Gbagbo and we have some marginalization of oppositions party leaders in the new transitional scheme," said Yabi.

But Yabi says as long as the new government moves quickly towards free and fair elections, he does not think the newly marginalized opposition figures will be able to raise objections.

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